Davos Notebook

How did Davos do on climate change?

One sometimes hears that the World Economic Forum is all talk and no action. I don’t buy it — talk matters. Social currency is a powerful driver of change, even at the highest reaches of business and government. And last week climate change was on center stage at the famous Davos summit. So as I moved through the WEF Annual Meeting, the question on my mind was simple: How many of the conversations here will lead to real-world outcomes?

President Barack Obama had helped point the spotlight with his second inaugural address two days earlier, but the real reason for renewed focus, after several years of near silence, is the increasingly destructive and incredibly costly wave of unprecedented weather events that have occurred around the globe. There were more than 30 official sessions on climate change, environmental resilience and food security this year at the Annual Meeting, and even more related side events.

At a dinner on climate change and extreme weather hosted by my organization the Environmental Defense Fund and The Weather Company, meteorologist Jim Cantore explained that the vanishing sea ice around the North Pole may be changing the whole jet stream. That could trigger a level of climate chaos that makes the disruptions we’ve seen so far look like child’s play.

Beneath all the talk was doubt about whether humanity could rise to the scale of this massive challenge. More than a few hands shot up in one session when the speaker asked if the time had come to deploy geoengineering – using technology on a massive scale in an attempt to reverse the problem by, for example, altering the chemistry of the ocean, or trying to block the sun’s rays from the atmosphere.

I didn’t raise my hand. I don’t see the logic of compounding the dangers of people playing god, with unknowable results. While these grand – and grandiose – ideas might appeal to a certain kind of techno-optimism, they also provide an easy distraction from the investments we know we need to make to protect against extreme weather that’s already here.

Africa feels the heat on climate change

kilimaIt may have contributed less than any other continent to CO2 emissions, but Africa is on the front line when it comes to the impact of climate change.

Just ask Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

“It is a threat for us,” he told a panel at the World Economic Forum.  “On Kilimanjaro the snow is fast disappearing, sea levels are rising — we have one island that has already been submerged — and we’ve towns around the coast where we have to incur huge costs of adaptation to erect walls.”

In theory, Africa is also in a strong position, given its virgin forests that represent one of the world’s great carbon sinks. But setting up workable offset-trading schemes is easier said than done.  “I can assure you, it is so difficult to access these facilities,” Kikwete said.

Five themes for Davos

Top (L-R): Steve Clarke, Natsuko Waki, Gerard Wynn, Martin Howell
Bottom (L-R): Peter Thal Larsen, Felix Salmon, Ben Hirschler, Krista Hughes

Reuters will have a multimedia team of 20 journalists plus editors and three columnists on site covering the Jan. 27-31 World Economic Forum annual meeting.

This year we are focusing our news coverage around five global themes that are shaping economics, politics and investment opportunities in 2010.  Our in-depth reports will draw on the expertise of our specialist correspondents from around the world to help inform the Davos conversation. These reports will be complemented by on-the-ground coverage, exclusive text and TV interviews, as well as a live blog aggregating the best Davos coverage on the web and on Twitter. We’ll be exploring the probing questions behind efforts to rebuild the world economy and financial system two years after the credit crisis.

from The Great Debate:

Business must take the lead on carbon management

APOTHEKER

Léo Apotheker is CEO of SAP. The views expressed are his own.

Most people who followed the Copenhagen climate talks in December will have been disappointed.

While the agreement brokered by the group of countries that included the United States, Brazil, China, India and South Africa and ratified by most of the attending countries is being touted as a success of sorts, it fell far short of the expectations that had built up, and achieved very little in concrete terms.

Now with the World Economic Forum approaching, the issue of climate change and sustainability will once again dominate discussions among the business and political leaders who attend the annual gathering in Davos.

Davos Man turns 40

Davos Man2 Many happy returns or midlife crisis?

The annual talkfest in the Alps records its 40th birthday this year but the rich and powerful will hardly be in celebratory mood as problems pile up in the post-crisis world.

How to withdraw the trillions of dollars in stimulus that helped the world avoid a rerun of the Great Depression, without spooking markets all over again?

What to do in the face of the world’s lukewarm response to the hot topic of climate change?

Climate change – does business get it?

Climate change — and the need for governments to reach a deal in Copenhagen on limiting climate-changing emissions — has been one of the central themes of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

And despite concerns that the economic crisis could push climate change down the agenda, businesses are salivating at the opportunities offered by going green.

Previously sceptical politicians and NGOs welcome business’s enthusiasm.

“Quite a lot of business has got it, and really understands that this has got to happen and are talking about really innovative things,” Barbara Stocking, CEO of Oxfam.